For the most part, HB 1600, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) Sunset bill, is non-controversial. The largest portion of the bill deals with moving the authority over water rates from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to the PUC.
However, the granting of emergency cease and desist authority in Section 1.03 of this bill is a major problem. Section 1.03 would give the PUC the authority to issue a cease and desist order on its own authority without going to district court. The PUC could also issue a cease and desist order without providing notice to the company or without providing the company an opportunity for a hearing. Only if “practicable” would a company have an opportunity for notice or a hearing.
The Foundation objects to granting emergency cease and desist authority to the PUC—and to HB 1600 unless this provision is removed. For a full treatment of the problems the Foundation sees with this provision, please see the Center’s bill analysis on HB 1600. The short version is that granting emergency cease and desist authority to the PUC is completely unjustified given the facts. There is zero evidence of any substantive violations or problems in the Texas electricity market to justify this increased intervention in the market. This provision is particularly worrisome at a time when the primary challenge facing state policymakers is maintaining reliability in the face of government intervention in the Texas electricity market.
Amendments have been filed by Reps. David Simpson (p. 24), Matt Krause (p. 25), and Jodie Laubenberg (p. 26) to eliminate this provision. TPPF urges the adoption of any of these amendments.
Reps. Simpson (p. 27) and Scott Sanford (p. 28) have filed amendments that would limit the PUC’s cease and desist authority, but not eliminate it. While we appreciate these efforts to reduce the unjustified authority granted in the bill, the House’s best course of action would be to repeal such authority altogether.
The Foundation also issues recommendations regarding several other floor amendments (click links to see related TPPF research):
OPPOSE: Amendment by Sylvester Turner, p. 22 – The level of fines at the PUC should not be increased; there are no problems in the market to justify this
OPPOSE: Amendment by Sylvester Turner, p. 29 – This would expand the PUC’s cease and desist authority
OPPOSE: Amendment by Vo, p. 42 – Terms of service should be decided between the customer and the provider, not by the PUC
OPPOSE: Amendment by Strama, p. 47 – Renewable energy subsidies harm consumers, increase energy prices, and reduce reliability in the Texas electricity market
SUPPORT: Amendment by Sylvester Turner, p. 55 – The Foundation supports a reduction in the Universal Service Fund
OPPOSE: Amendment by Yvonne Davis, p. 57 – This would largely re-regulate the Texas electricity market